Disconnected myself from this blog & the back porch over the last 2 weeks to reconnect with old friends, favorite foods and fun down in Texas.
The whole trip presented a series of challenges due to my prolonged incapacitation & rehab. We decided to make this a driving trip, so first we tested how well I could manage car travel over the long haul. We packed the sleeping pad that’s been my bed since last July, anticipating some beds would not meet my need for firm support.
Lastly, I knew I would face two Big Challenges in terms of my stamina: walking for days at SXSW Edu followed by standing for 2 Bobby Weir & the Wolf Brothers shows. Still, my strength and stamina have been returning over many months of rehab, exercise, and walking and I felt confident I could pace myself properly.
Texas did not disappoint. Once we rolled through Raton Pass and angled our way through northeastern New Mexico, we were headed southeasterly across the miles and miles of Texas Panhandle. We spent in the night in Levelland — because we could, and it’s about the halfway point of the whole trip.
There, in the town so aptly described in James McMurtry’s song —”Flatter than a tabletop” — we knew we’d hit Texas treasure with the chicken-fried steak special we found locally. I’d post a picture but I couldn’t fit the steak into the frame! Fit real nicely in my mouth, though, and proof solid that we were back in the Lone Star State.
Day 2 took us into the Texas Hill Country with its rolling 2-lane roads leading us to reconnect with old friends, Derek & Ann. MY old friends, as it turned out. As we approached their home hidden away in the hills, Sara asked, “Have I ever actually met these people?” And I realized, that for the all tales I’d told of these two, she had not yet met them. Not to worry — while Derek & I were sharing recollections all the way back to high school, Ann & Sara became instant close friends.
We left too soon but had more miles to go before we could sleep in Austin. To cushion our landing, we’d arranged an Air B&B close to our old south Austin neighborhood. Well, stepping into our cozy cottage felt very much like reconnecting to Old Austin.
Our host, Jon, who lived next door, is a working musician who’d played with numerous folks, mostly prominently Ian McLagan & the Bump Band. In fact, I was able to share with him the video I shot of him with Ian at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar a dozen years earlier.
Music posters from the ill-fated Altamont concert and Armadillo World Headquarters adorned the walls — including an old favorite featuring Denim with an interesting opening act.
As it turns out, I had lived a block away from where this house previously stood on Christopher Street until Joe moved it to where it now stands off Oltorf. With Kelly’s Irish Pub a short walk from the house, we were set to start our Austin adventures.
For me, that was SXSW Edu — abbreviated fashion. I chose my sessions to reduce walking time and avoid prolonged sitting. To a great extent, I felt disengaged from the conference, what with my time away from volunteering with our TechStart interns. I skipped the keynotes (available on video) and social events and left myself plenty of time for slow walking and food breaks.
Still, I did enjoy the conference if only for some of the people I ran into. Kimery Duda of the Expedition School wondered about getting outdoor educators and learning opportunities into the conference. She pointed out that SXSW offers morning walking tours — why not morning kayaking?
Later, I ran into Steve Amos, a fellow Advisory Board member involved in lifelong health education and hope to hook those two up to explore future outdoor learning options at SXSW Edu.
I also ran into my old friend and veterinarian, Dr. Mike Mullen, attending with his wife, Katie. I have known Mike since long before he became a vet (since he was in high school!), so it’s always good to catch up with him. He told me some exciting news I plan to share in an upcoming blog post.
While I did get fatigued at both the Edu conference and the Bobby shows, I mostly managed to self-regulate my activities — along with some OTC pain meds — enough to enjoy myself. Okay, the second set of the 1st night’s show I did have to prop myself against a concrete column and kinda wished there was some space on the concrete floor where I could lie down for a few minutes.
But I paced myself better the 2nd night after I found the ADA seats openly available in the back corner of the floor. Not only were the shows stunning (of course), but I got to visit with friends I knew from the days of dancing to DeadEye while still living in Austin.
Once I found a spot along the side “rail” to lean on for the second set, I even found the energy to kinda-sorta wobble-dance when local accordionist Joel Guzman sat in for several songs.
My buddy Albert suggested he, Shawn & I find a comfortable place to grab a beer after the show — a bit of a challenge downtown at 11pm on a Tuesday night. But Old Austin kicked in again and we managed to get over to the Posse East (“Since 1971”) for a couple of beers before they closed. They have newer picnic tables and a cover over more of them, but it’s still the same old Posse East we knew from the old days. We even went back after Wednesday night’s show.
Slightly exhausted from my double-up days, I skipped the final day of the conference & the closing party. While I had been busy with the conference & shows, Sara had enjoyed revisiting old Austin shopping/eating haunts, including “Yonder Market” (our term for Central Market South), BookPeople, and Phil’s Burgers.
With SXSW Edu & the Wolf Brothers show out of the way, it was time for rest — and reconnecting with our old friends. We had already done more in the 5 days since leaving home than we had done in the previous 5 months. Add in Austin’s allergens and Sara was sidelined mid-week while we were visiting our old neighbor and friend, Wendy. I took a much-deserved day off as well.
We did get to visit with our friends James & Kara before they move away from Austin later this spring. Saturday, we headed out to Bastrop to stay with our old friends, Albert & Rebecca — and catch a Saturday night show from Sara Hickman at the Bugle Boy. That was a true delight that night, something to cap off our week.
Wrapping up our round of reconnecting with old friends, we headed out to Billy & Karen’s home near Driftwood. Karen pre-ordered food from the legendary Franklin’s Barbecue, so we feasted on the Best Brisket in the World. Well, at least the best brisket I have ever eaten. Pork ribs & sausage, too, but it was the brisket that topped off our tour of Texas tastes
Chicken-fried steak? Check. tex-Mex and tacos? Check. Barbecue? Check. We even snagged some kolaches!
Our trip home seemed to fly by as we retraced our way homeward. It still took 2 days to drive hundreds and hundreds of miles but with home on the horizon, our journey just seemed shorter as we saw our mountains rise up ahead to greet us.
Now to reconnect here at home.
I just read your 2016 pot about Jim Darsey Nelson, I own that same print which you mentioned, The Wizard, it´s one of my favorites, I was just about to reframe another of Jim´s prints, thought I would check online to see if he was still actively drawing. So sad to find out he has passed. He must´ve been a gentle soul, I think that´s what I get from his artwork. Thanks